ABU DHABI: A shared culture and matching sensibility make India a promising destination for screening films from across the border, say Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi, co-directors of highly-acclaimed Pakistani film Zinda Bhaag.
Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah-starrer Zinda Bhaag is the first Pakistani movie to be sent for the Oscars in the last 50 years. In 2008, Shoaib Mansoor’s Khuda Kay Liye was released commercially in India, making it the first Pakistani film to release across the border after 43 years. It was followed by Mehreen Jabbar’s Ramchand Pakistani. In 2011, Indian audiences were treated to Mansoor’s Bol.
Now, the makers of Zinda Bhaag are hoping that the film, based on illegal immigration, will be welcomed with open arms in India. “I really think Pakistani films need to be [regularly] shown in India. That needs to happen,” Gaur, who was in the city with Nabi for the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF), told IANS.
Zinda Bhaag was screened at the ADFF. It was appreciated for its local Lahori flavour, punchy dialogues and natural acting and for showcasing an issue as sensitive as the clamour of the youth to settle in a foreign land by hook or by crook, in a light-hearted but convincing manner.
Gaur believes the film, which took over “two years and roughly $500,000 to make”, has the ability to strike a chord with Indian audiences for more reasons than one. “If there is any country that this film transcends seamlessly in, it is India. In India’s Punjab, too, illegal immigration is as prevalent as it is in Pakistan’s Punjab. So it is a story that will easily appeal [to the Indian audience]. We are very excited about a possible release in India,” said the film-maker, an Indian married to Zinda Bhaag producer Imran Zaidi.
Nabi, who is happy that his film has been able to make it to various screens in Pakistan and the US said, “We are in our fifth week in Pakistani theatres. In the US, it’s in the second week. It has released in around 10 cities. It will be followed by Canada, and hopefully India soon.”
He revealed that a recent limited screening of Zinda Bhaag in Delhi evoked a positive sentiment. “The people said this can be any mohalla of Delhi and a lot of people said subtitles are not needed. There is an instant connect in Delhi with the story and characters, which are based in Lahore,” Nabi added.
Cultural exchange lies at the heart of their film, for which they used around five crew members from India. It has a pivotal role essayed by veteran Indian actor Naseer, who even held a week’s workshop for the first-time actors who play protagonists in the film.
“When we decided to have some crew members from India for ‘Zinda Bhaag’, we took a very deliberate decision. The practice in Pakistan is to get crews from cities like Bangkok but we chose India and the reason was clear.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2013.